Navy Monitoring Soviet Submarine Exercise Off East Coast
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Navy is monitoring what appears to be the largest exercise involving Soviet submarines off the East Coast in almost two years, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
It said the exercise involved several types of nuclear-powered attack submarines, most of them apparently attached to the Soviets’ Northern Fleet.
While refusing to say how many submarines were involved, the Pentagon compared the deployment to a similar exercise in 1985 when ″about half-a- dozen (Soviet submarines) operated in the Atlantic.″
The Pentagon declined to fix the location of the submarines, beyond saying they were now in the ″western Atlantic area.″
″The submarines, among the quietest and most capable in the Soviet navy, probably deployed from the Soviet Northern Fleet area last month,″ the Pentagon said.
″These submarines are being routinely monitored by U.S. Atlantic Command and NATO forces. Although this Soviet submarine deployment is not routine, Atlantic Command and NATO forces are maintaining surveillance of the activity and there is currently no increased threat to U.S. interests or territory.″
According to Pentagon sources who asked not to be named, the Soviet subs are not operating together, but rather have taken up positions along the coast primarily from Connecticut to Virginia.
The Navy’s main submarine base is at New London, Conn., and its largest port is at Norfolk, Va.
The Pentagon declined to spell out what types of attack submarines had been detected, beyond saying that ″several ... are believed to be Victor-class nuclear attack submarines.″
The latest class of Victor submarines was introduced to the Soviet fleet in 1979. Such vessels carry a variety of torpedoes and anti-submarine missiles, according to the Pentagon.
It is not unusual for the Soviets to deploy submarines bearing nuclear missiles off the U.S. coast. Indeed, a Soviet Yankee-class missile sub sank off the coast of North Carolina in October 1986 after an apparent explosion in one of its missile tubes.
The appearance of attack submarines, however, is far less frequent.
One source said Tuesday it was ″safe to assume″ the Soviet subs were being monitored not only by airplanes and surface ships but also by U.S. attack submarines.
″They’re obviously out there for training purposes, and we’re taking advantage of the opportunity ourselves,″ the source added.
Reporters began asking about the Soviet subs on Tuesday following reports from Capitol Hill that Navy officials had discussed the matter on Monday during the course of a closed hearing.
The Navy declined comment on the matter.
Disclosure of the Soviet exercise came as the Pentagon mounted a campaign to convince Congress to restore money for development of a new attack submarine, the Seawolf.